A source familiar with Kevin Love‘s thinking tells Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com the All-Star is intrigued by the Bulls as a destination, adding to the forward’s known interests in the Lakers and Knicks. At this point, there has been no indication that the Bulls front office has made any preparations for a Love pursuit, which would have to occur via a trade before the 2014/15 season’s trade deadline, or in free agency before the 2015/16 season, when Love is expected by most to decline his $16.7MM player option.
The Lakers have been considered the favorite to land Love if he were to depart from the Timberwolves either as a free agent or in a pre-emptive trade if Minnesota looks to avoid losing him for nothing. However, Love’s public statements about the Lakers have been less than glowing in recent months. Last night, after scoring a triple double in a beatdown of the Lakers, Love blamed the Lakers speculation on his upbringing in Los Angeles and no more. In an earlier interview with GQ, Love rejected the notion that the Lakers roster is more attractive than the roster he’s surrounded by in Minnesota.
Depending on what the Bulls do this summer, they may not have enough cap flexibility to obtain Love by trade or by signing him if and when he becomes a free agent demanding a max salary. Carlos Boozer‘s contract runs through next season but could be amnestied, Nikola Mirotic could be bought out from his European team and brought to Chicago, and other free agents could be added for next year and beyond, including some improbable scenarios involving Carmelo Anthony. If Minnesota opened a bidding war for Love, the Lakers are set up to have better draft assets to deal over the next couple of years, but don’t have any young pieces as valuable as Chicago’s Taj Gibson or Jimmy Butler.
The speculation around Love’s future has heated up since the All-Star break, as the Wolves have slid further out of playoff contention. The team was built to break into the playoffs for the first time in Love’s six years with the franchise that drafted him, with expectations boosted by free agency acquisitions including Kevin Martin and full, healthy seasons from both Love and Ricky Rubio.